Today we are going to be looking at the Clipper, a new entry level offering from the good folks at Rhapsodio. Congratulations Rhapsodio on celebrating your fourth year anniversary! Here is to many more years of success and growth.
The Clipper can be purchased right now from Rhapsodio for 55 USD. Here is a link to their site and store where you check out what else they make.
I would like to thank flinkenick from Head-fi.org for reaching out to me to see if I would be interested in reviewing the Clipper, and Sammy at Rhapsodio for sending it over for review. I am not receiving any financial compensation for this review and all comments and views within are my honest opinions.
A Little About Me:
Over the last couple years I decided to dive head first into the world of portable audio. After reading pretty much the entirety of IjokerI’s multi-earphone review thread and being greatly inspired, I took a chance and started writing my own reviews. Fast forward a couple years and I’ve had the opportunity to write about some great products for wonderful companies like RHA, Havi, FiiO, NarMoo, Brainwavz, and Meze. I don’t do it for money or free stuff, but because I enjoy it. If my reviews can help guide someone to an earphone that makes them happy, I’ll consider that a job well done.
The gear used for testing is pretty basic composing of an HTC One M8 cellphone, Topping NX1 portable amplifier, and my aging Asus G73 gaming laptop paired with a Plantronics Rig USB amp. I listen primarily to various EDM sub-genres (liquid drum and bass, breakbeat, drumstep, etc.), hip hop, and classic rock. When it comes to earphone preferences I tend to leans towards aggressive and bassy, but I try not to limit myself to one signature only.
Enough preamble. Let us dive into the good stuff shall we?
Packaging and Accessories:
The Clipper comes as a pretty bare bones package including only a simple carrying case and three sizes of silicone ear tips; s/m/l. No retail packaging is included. While the point of this was to help keep costs down and focused on the earphone itself, I have to admit that I was still somewhat disappointed if only because of the perceived quality of the accessories.
The case is the same simple square case that you get with many Knowledge Zenith purchases (10 USD budget earphones), and that can often be picked up online for around 1.50 USD, or less. At least its a decent case, with netting in place for tip storage. The opaque white wide-bore tips feel a bit low-rent compared to those from JVC, UE, Sony, Dunu, etc. but they do the job and provide a great seal.
The accessories provided work, but are well below average in quality. If number of accessories matter, the Clipper falls behind the competition there too.
Build, Design, and Comfort:
The Clipper takes on a stubby, low-profile design, wrapping itself neatly around its 10mm dynamic driver. The plastic used for the housing feels quite solid and of good quality, and the interior frosting is a nice touch. It is a very unassuming design, free of flashy colors, logos, or anything overly defining. That is, until you get to the cable.
The Clipper features a removable cable with MMCX connectors. While I only have a few other earphones the use an MMCX design these offer the most secure and confidence inspiring connection I’ve come across. The cable is an eye-catching candy cane swirl of black and white, terminated in a simple, well-relieved straight jack. The y-split is uncommonly relieved at both ends, something I welcome with open arms. Absent is a chin slider which doesn’t bother me any, though I know for many of you this omission will not be ideal. The most brilliant part of this cable can be seen where you would normally find memory wire, or a preformed ear-guide, a la Brainwavz XFIT XF-200 or Somic MH415.
The built-in ear guide on the Clipper is by far and away the best I’ve come across to date. Unlike every other earphone I have with this feature, Rhapsodio went with a soft rubber that not only acts as strain relief, but does a fantastic job of guiding the cable around your ear comfortably and securely. I haven’t had any issues with the cable coming out of place which makes the omission of a chin slider more acceptable. Other companies that opt out of memory wire and decide to move forward with a built-in ear guide need to take a hard look at what Rhapsodio has done here. It’s awesome.
Comfort or fit with the Clipper is a bit of a mixed bag for me. Everyone’s ears are different, but if you have had issues in the past with earphones shaped like the Brainwavz XFIT XF-200, QKZ W1 Pro, Mee Audio M6, or a slew of other earphones sharing this basic design philosophy, I suspect you may run into problems here too. Driver flex is also quite prevalent. Not surprising given the housing are sealed. This does lead to pretty good isolation though, so there’s a win.
The biggest issue for me is that the nozzles are just too short. Medium tips do not insert far enough to create a seal meaning I have to resort to large tips and settle for an extremely shallow fit. After running through my tip collection I ended up going back to the Clipper’s stock large silicones. With a bit of finagling, I can get them to seal comfortably and consistently right at the entrance of my ear canal. Other tips required even more effort to seal properly and tended to easily come out of place. Very annoying because all I want to do is sit and listen to the wonderful sounds being produced.
In summary they’re well-built minus the invasive driver flex, offer little in the way of a unique design, and are eventually comfortable once you can get them to fit in and seal correctly.
And what a wonderful sound it is. The Clipper is a very good earphone, leaning towards a warmer sound that does it’s 55 USD price tag justice. While they are bass-heavy, the quality of the bass they output is phenomenal and in no way takes away from the experience. In fact, it is by far and away my favorite thing about the Clipper.
If you primarily listen to EDM, hip hop, pop, or other bass-heavy genres the Clipper is going to slap a stupid grin across your face. I usually try to remain a little reserved in my reviews and hold back my excitement for fear of coming across a bit over-enthusiastic, but the bass on these things deserves some serious praise. Rhapsodio has tuned them with an expert balance of mid and sub-bass presence, with additional focus on sub-bass. Not only do you get to hear every detail, but you feel it too. Despite how robust the low end is, it’s also quick and well-controlled. In my opinion Rhapsodio absolutely nailed the low end on the Clipper.
So, we know the Clipper outputs some seriously good bass. Thankfully their mids are pretty juicy too. Clear, well-separated, natural, and detailed enough. I suspect that as a result of the little spike in the 3K region some female vocals (ex. Nicki Minaj) occasionally come across a little hot, exaggerated by mediocre recordings.
Treble presentation on the Clipper is merely acceptable. It comes across as slightly dry, brittle, and a touch grainy. It lacks the natural and organic feel of the rest of the signature. On the plus side you still get a decent amount of detail and clarity. It’s not bad, just a little too easily overshadowed by mids and bass. It’s need some of that special sauce that Rhapsodio dumped in everywhere else.
The Clipper presents itself with a full soundstage. While not huge or offering an out-of-head experience, it is refreshingly spacious for such a bassy earphone. Moving from Brainwavz’s XF-200 which has a pretty decent soundstage, you will notice the Clipper is notably larger and more vivacious. It’s not going to be rivaling the budget king, the Havi B3 Pro 1, anytime soon, but it holds its own. Imaging on the other hand is brilliant. These things do a great job of throwing sounds around realistically and with a distinct sense of distance and space.
In summary, they are an excellent sounding earphone with okay treble. If the rest of the signature wasn’t so enjoyable this wouldn’t stick out so much.
While not mandatory, the Clipper does seem to benefit. Results? Even better bass. It’s tighter, quicker, and overall just sounds that much more refined. Amping also helps out the treble by giving it some life , bringing it more in line with what it should have been from the start.
Brainwavz XFIT XF-200 (25 USD): The Clipper is less v-shaped, smoother, and more refined but lacks the upper end excitement of the XF-200. The XF-200 puts more emphasis into the midbass regions and still offers up good subbass extension, just not to the extent of the Clipper. I also lacks the same level of control, though it’s not far off. The XF-200 has the edge when it comes to offering a more energetic listen. The Clipper is a bit more laid back and better for longer listening sessions. The Clipper requires notably more power to drive to similar volumes.
QKZ W1 Pro (~8.50 USD): In my review (http://www.head-fi.org/products/qkz-w1-pro-in-ear-sport-headphone/reviews/15903) of the W1 Pro I compared it directly to the XF-200 saying “Sound quality is also very similar, with the XF-200 being the more aggressive of the two. In comparison, the XF-200 is bassier and brighter, appealing to those wanting a more “fun” sound.” Let’s revise that comment to apply to the Clipper. “Sound quality is also very similar, with the W1 Pro being the more balanced yet also more aggressive of the two. In comparison, the Clipper offers less detail, is bassier, and would appeal more to those wanting a “fun” sound that also happens to be smoother and more refined.”
The W1 Pro highlights is what I dislike about the Clipper’s treble presentation. Listening to them back to back the Clipper comes across a bit lifeless. But then that bass kicks in and the W1 Pro stands aside. The Clipper can teach them a thing or two in that department, both in quantity and quality. Both require similar power to drive.
JVC HA-FX3X (~45.00 USD): Now this is more like it. One of my favorite JVC’s going head to head with the Clipper. Their overall tonality and signature is quite similar with different levels of emphasis. The JVC turns up the treble, leaves the mids, dials up midbass a touch, and drops the subbass a bit. Soundstage on the Clipper is larger and their bass texture is improved, but the FX3X bests them in detail and clarity everywhere else. Imaging on both is great with the Clipper showing greater competence. Both require similar power to drive.
Graph is found on Rhapsodio’s Facebook page
What can I say? The Clipper is a bass heavy earphone that offers up an addictive sound and a great removable MMCX cable with the best built in ear-guide I’ve come across. While the 55 USD price tag seems pretty fair at first, I then look at the 8.50 USD W1 Pro and start to second guess things.
Does the W1 have a removable cable? Yes, and it’s a good one too (not MMCX though, which might be a plus to some). Carrying case? Got it. Low profile, over-ear design? Uh huh. Basic collection of s/m/l eartips? Indeed. Memory wire? Yes. Not only does it go feature-to-feature with the Rhapsodio, tossing an inline microphone and single button remote into the mix, but it still manages to sound pretty good. Not to same level of the Clipper, but much closer than you would expect. You also would not expect such a price disparity when holding them in hand as the perceived build quality is very close. The edge goes to the Clipper with it’s better fit and finish.
And therein lies what I think is the Clipper’s Achilles Heel; value. I love this earphone, don’t get me wrong. They sound fantastic and if that’s what’s most important for you, you will be a happy camper. That bass is ridiculously addictive and their mids are very welcoming. I would love to see Rhapsodio sell bucket loads of them. BUT, the budget earphone market has been on a roll lately bringing consumers some amazing value-for-dollar earphones. Outside of their bass quality and that awesome ear guide, I fear the Clipper is being sent to battle with a great weapon and inadequate armor.
For the budget conscious consumer that decides to cross-shop the Clipper with other similarly priced earphones, I can understand if they are hesitant to drop 55 USD. What warrants the price? There are no exotic materials, the same general design philosophy that can be found in products by numerous other manufacturers, and the included accessories are cheap feeling and barren. While I am NOT under the impression the Clipper is of poor value, I AM under the impression that it is not good value. This is Rhapsodio’s entry into a very crowded segment with the bunch of excellent earphones that offer consumers more than just great sound. The Clipper can hang with the best and beat most there, and they have an excellent cable with an ear-guide that puts most to shame, but the rest of the package is lacking. You can add onto that workable but underwhelming treble presentation and very noticeable driver flex.
At a lower price or with an accessory kit befitting of the price tag and overall quality of the earphone, the Clipper would be a must buy for a bass lover on a budget. As is I think they could be a tough sell, one that you will enjoy should you decide to purchase them, but a tough sell none-the-less.
Thank you again Rhapsodio for giving me the opportunity to listen to and review the Clipper. This will be a great gateway earphone to your brand and higher end offerings.
Thank you for reading!